By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Sick of the same tired nativity set you bought from KMart? The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street, 535-7710) helps stave off boredom with its annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Cr*che in the Medieval Sculpture Hall. It's all about a little 18th-century style (get in on it now!)silken-robed figures with shepherds, animals, and the three magi. The 20-foot tree is clad with cherubs, 50 angels, and gleaming lights. While you're there, see the Virgin and Child and the Processional Cross. If you need another dose of the Middle Ages, check out the Cloisters (Fort Tryon Park, West 193rd Street, and Fort Washington Park, 923-3700)the stained-glass depiction of The Annunciation will have you praying for more. (FRANKLIN)
Yes, I know the tradition is that we go to the pictures after Chinese food, but what, you want we should see Harry Potter for the sixth time? The lineup for this annual gathering of the tribes is still uncertain (though the 24th will feature Rob Tannenbaum and Sean Altman's "What I Like About Jew" songwriter program), but you can expect the usual suspects: big-name neo-klezmer acts, Hasidic rockers, unorthodox downtowners, and word-play worthy of our Catskills heritage. December 23 at 8, 24 at 7, and 25 at 8, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006. (WOLK)
Don't Make Me Stop this Car!
Your friends are in from Boston and they want you to show them "New Yawk," but you only have 18 cents in your pockets. Pile into the wagon, wait till 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night preferably, and take a drive into Manhattan. "You wanna see a city dressed in holiday style?" Cruise to Macy's (34th Street and Broadway, 695-4400) and view scenes from Miracle on 34th Street, then move up to Lord & Taylor (38th Street and Fifth Avenue, 391-3344), where they'll be celebrating their 175th anniversary with "Christmas Through the Years." Peek inside Saks (49th Street and Fifth Avenue, 753-4000) re-creation of Chris Raschka's new adaptation of e.e. cummings's Little Tree. Pass by Bergdorf Goodman (58th Street and Fifth Avenue, 753-7300) and their "Values and Virtues" window, one of three separate themes honoring traditions like shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. Play some holiday tunes and sing along to the Chipmunks Christmas Song, and never once leave the comforts of your climate-controlled vehicle. Or if you're like mewith no car or friendsyou can stay home and smoke that stuff that looks like a Christmas-tree bud. (ABER)
'The Shipping News'
A holiday tradition alongside puking in-laws and fruitcakes in freezers: Miramax hitches their Academy cart behind Lasse Hallstrsm and his homespun paeans to tolerance, this time taking the form of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winner. As quixotic Quoyle, Kevin Spacey casts himself again in Being Robin Williams. Opens December 25. (WINTER)
Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights Show
Top Three Reasons Why the Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights Show Beats the Human Herds, Tourist Traps, and Faux Flash of Manhattan's Midtown Zoo: (3) Big-beaked gray-cheeked hornbills, slithering African rock pythons, and funny-looking pygmy marmosets don't talk, sneeze, or shove. (2) The 140 giant lighted animal sculpturesincluding a somersaulting spider monkey!are a lot less scary than the gargantuan Barbie at FAO Schwartz. (1) Live reindeer and camels will get you home faster than a yellow taxi. Through January 1, Bronx Zoo, Fordham Road and the Bronx River Parkway, Bronx, 718-367-1010. (SPARTOS)
'A Beautiful Mind'
Escape your insane family and curl up with insane but strapping Russell Crowe in Ron Howard's biopic of schizophrenic game-theory prodigy John Forbes Nash Jr. Maybe the Good Will Hunting combo of math and emoting is preemptive, but the cast (including Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly) and source material (Sylvia Nasar's book) are impeccable. Opens December 25. (WINTER)
Stoned Sledding in Nyc
I don't smoke pot like I used to, but when it snows in the city, I just have tothere's nothing better than a dive into the surreal, urban wonderland. And my favorite stoned snow-day activity is sledding. Yes, there really are places to go sledding in the Big Apple, two of the best spots being Great Hill in Central Park(West 106th Street and Central Park West) and Monument Hill in Prospect Park (6th Street and Prospect Park West, Brooklyn). You can pick up a decent sled at KMart for under $12, but if you're too paranoid to do the whole "dealing with people" thing, find a sturdy piece of cardboard or rip off a plastic trash-can lid. I also recommend bringing along a flask of Jack Daniel's to help shake off the coldafter all, risking hypothermia is part of the thrill. (SWITZER)
'Nutcracker on Ice'
Some things are better in New Jersey, like Sopranos casting calls and eyeliner selection. Add another to the list: the Saint Petersburg version of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Konstantin Rassadin. They take your basic Nutcracker formula, and they ICE the MOtheR OUT, y'all! (St. Petersburg Ballet all up in the PAC, namsayin'?) Clearly, this show holds the promise of rich extravagance. Originally (1816) a tale with dark and morbid roots, Nutcracker was re-written to pander to American idealism. Phew! We need to cling to that stuff now more than ever! Let's get lost in the branches of that majestic pine, in sweets, warmth, and dreams! If the PATH is shut down for some reason, say terrorism, or if you hate frozen water, stay on the island for Lincoln Center's George Balanchine version (through December 31, Lincoln Center, New York State Theater, 63rd Street and Broadway, 870-5570). Both offer many young girls in frilly skirtstake Grampa! December 27 and 28 at 7:30, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Centre Street, Newark, New Jersey, 888-GO-NJPAC. (PERETTI)